In what comes as no surprise to Montanans Ryan Zinke has once again been caught with his hand in the cookie jar misusing taxpayer dollars for expensive flights. In an expose published in Newsweek based on information gathered through Freedom of Information Act requests it has come to light that this time it wasn’t just any taxpayer dollars, these funds were specifically set aside for fighting wildfires. Even for Secretary Zinke this is a new low.
The biggest punch in the gut is that he was using this money in his plans to gut National Monuments. The way that Secretary Zinke evaded this issue is classic Zinke. His spokesperson claimed it was a billing error when Newsweek caught them.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the group Democracy Forward and shared with Newsweek show that on July 10, Swift emailed a group of colleagues, saying, “I think we should get the Secretary to a fire line in Nevada while he is there. The BLM is point on a couple fires out there. May have to leave a day early but I think it’s worth it.”
Swift also requested and received information on wildfire sites in the state.
In a July 17 exchange, a staffer said Zinke would probably not be able to get to a Nevada fire line because his schedule wouldn’t allow it. Nonetheless, shortly afterward another planner emailed that “it looks like BLM will be able to pay for the helicopter out of the national fire office in Boise,” and organizers cited a specific billing code.
The Newsweek expose blows holes in the story of Secretary Zinke’s spokesperson:
The secretary did not visit any fire zones that day, according to internal emails obtained by Newsweek.
But after Newsweek questioned the line item, an Interior Department spokeswoman said this week that the chopper—listed in an accounting of Zinke’s travel as costing $39,295—“was charged to the account in error.” She added that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would pay for the helicopter from “a more appropriate account.”
The evidence clearly shows that they tried to specifically use these funds for these purposes. While Montana was burning and could have used these funds or Zinke’s advocacy on our behalf.
Another chapter of failed leadership and misappropriation of money for travel by Secretary Zinke.